Every Kiwi knows that a tiki tour is a scenic journey — and a great way to explore New Zealand is a tiki tour by rail! With its Alpine mountains, endless coastline, and cosmopolitan cities, this compact and charming island nation is a microcosm of our planet; one especially suited to train travel. Though NZ's once extensive rail network has faded, it still manages to take in many of the most desirable routes and destinations. Factor in the country's inconsistent road quality and aggressive drivers and it's no wonder that visitors continue to appreciate New Zealand by rail. Train times, ticket prices, and travel booking are available online.
New Zealand by rail
KiwiRail operates four long-distance lines. North Island's Northern Explorer links Auckland and Wellington via Tongariro National Park. South Island's TranzAlpine, connecting Christchurch and Greymouth, is widely acclaimed as NZ's most spectacular route; its summer-only (Sept-May) Coastal Pacific links Pincton and Christchurch via the whale-watching port of Kaikoura. A weekday-only service, Capital Connection, runs between Wellington and the boomtown of Palmerston North. KR also operates the capital's regional lines. Commuter trains serving Auckland are operated by Transdev. Ferries and buses supplement the country's rail services. Ferries link Wellington and Pincton via Cook Strait. Buses serve Dunedin, Queenstown, Franz-Josef Glacier and popular beaches.
Most travelers arrive in New Zealand by air with Auckland International Airport being the most common point of entry. From ALK, AIRBUS Express provides frequent 24/7 connections with the Britomart Transport Centre (rail and bus) in Auckland's Central Business District. Cruise ships call on Auckland dock at Princess Wharf, a short walk or cab ride from the Britomart station. The best way to travel between Wellington International Airport and the city's railway station is via Airport Flyer express bus which also runs 24/7. If South Island is your principal destination then Christchurch is your optimum landing point. Buses run between CHC and Downtown's Central Station from early morning to late at night.
Booking New Zealand train travel
KiwiRail travel, including InterIslander ferry and Sounds Air between Wellington and Picton, can be booked through the railroad's online booking engine and by phone (+64 4 495 0775 from outside NZ; 0800 872 467 within NZ). Tickets may be booked up to six months in advance. KiwiRail Scenic Journey Rail Passes are also available online. Choices include "Fixed" passes, good for 7, 14, or 21 consecutive days of travel between late September and early May, and "Freedom" passes, good for 3-9 days travel anytime within a one-year period. Discounted rail passes, and reduced Capital Connection tickets are offered for children, ages 5-15. Discount travel is also available for groups of 20 or more. Infants, under age 2, travel free on all trains. For bus connections contact Intercity Bus or no-frills Naked Bus.
New Zealand train travel notes
All KiwiRail trains feature panorama-view coaches, licensed cafe cars and open-air coach and are fully accessible to mobility- and hearing-impaired travelers. Each passenger is allowed two pieces of checked luggage. Larger items, including strollers, are accommodated as space permits; a fee is levied for transport of bikes, boards and skis. The KiwiRail website has complete travel details.